Every now and again I find myself with this feeling that, hang on, I can’t get started with life yet, I haven’t worked out how to do life yet, I’m still figuring it all out, who am I, what am I supposed to be doing, how does this stuff work…
I’m fifty, I’m supposed to be an adult…
I’m beginning to suspect that maybe this is how it goes, that maybe we just keep learning, discovering things, working out more stuff as we go – but somehow we have to keep doing life in the meantime, learning on the job.
I think I started feeling like this when I was 18, when I’d left home to be all independent because hey, who needs these ancient parents who obviously don’t have a clue about anything… but on my own I was clueless, and life seemed kind of scary.
It doesn’t feel scary now, not in the same way as it did then. I know there’s someone looking after me, which back then I didn’t. Back then it was just me, and whichever humans were around. I had friends who were older, and somehow I assumed they knew more about how life works. But looking back now I can see they were also clueless, also trying to somehow do life without really having it all sussed.
Because really, that’s how everyone is – it’s just that some people sound more sure they’ve got it all worked out. And these days I’m very suspicious of those who sound like they’ve got it all sewn up. I have much more respect for those who are capable of admitting that there are some things they’re not sure about, who have the humility to say: well, this is a question I struggle with.
I posted something on Google+ once that was to do with my faith and someone posted a comment asking me a really big and complex question, starting with something like “so where do you stand on…” and I said: whoa, am I supposed to have a stand on each and every complex question? I’m just a human being, gradually figuring things out. I don’t have all the answers to everything, why would I?
But I remember a time when I thought I should… These days I am happy to add some questions to the list of “maybe one day I’ll look into this” and others to “stuff to ask when I get to heaven”.
A couple of days ago I bumped into a deep question that I hadn’t thought about and suddenly looking into it I discovered that I’d been missing a really important point. It shook me up and it got me thinking about all sorts of implications and what I might need to do about it and… in the middle of all this I had to go to the supermarket today and do the shopping and interact with the cashier in a normal way as though I don’t have huge big earth-shattering stuff going on in my head…
Somehow we have to keep functioning whilst we’re constantly developing, changing, learning, working things out. I think there’s this assumption that when you become an adult you stop doing all that, you’ve become a fully-functioning human and are ready to be released into the world… This kind of reminds me of the grumbles now and again on Google+ about Google’s tendency to release half-baked features and iron things out later… But with humans I think this is the only way – part of how we develop is through doing life, through trying things out and falling over and getting up again, learning from our mistakes… Sadly part of these mistakes involve hurting other people, but we can’t learn how to avoid that just through theory, we have to practise… So we hobble along and we say something hurtful and the other person snaps or cries or something and we think: oops, I need to try to do things differently… (well, that is if you care. obviously if you don’t mind hurting other people, you’re not going to learn much on that part of the syllabus.)
I am a work in progress, and somehow I think this is just how we all are and I’d better get used to it, and stop expecting to suddenly, miraculously, turn into this mysterious “adult who has it all sorted”, because, like pink unicorns, it’s only a myth.